Portugal did not miss the benched Cristiano Ronaldo as they blasted past a Swiss team stuck in neutral.
Goncalo Ramos scored three goals as Portugal thrashed Switzerland 6-1 to set up a quarter-final against Morocco in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Ramos, on the pitch in place of the benched Cristiano Ronaldo, delivered a hat-trick for the ages on Wednesday night at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, as the old-timers of Portuguese football handed the baton to a younger generation.
Veteran Pepe, wearing the captain’s armband in Ronaldo’s absence, added to Ramos’ opener in the first half.
Ramos scored his second early in the second half. Raphael Guerreiro added a fourth before the hour mark as Portugal started scoring for fun. Then came the third for Ramos, as the 21-year-old became the first player to score a hat-trick in the knock-out stages of World Cup since 1990.
There was a balance to this Portugal team without the overbearing presence of their talismanic captain, who was dropped after he reacted angrily to being substituted against South Korea in the group stages.
Football is a team game, and Portugal’s team all stepped up to fill the Ronaldo-sized void.
Switzerland’s Manuel Akanji turned the ball in at the far post from a beautifully weighted cross for a consolation goal in the 56th minute – but it could not herald a turn in the tide of the game.
Joao Felix made way for Ronaldo to a huge ovation in the 72nd minute, winning his 195th cap for Portugal. A spectacular effort from the veteran striker in the 82nd minute was ruled offside.
Rafael Leao, 23, brought together a wonderful finish in the 91st minute to leave Portugal facing Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon, before England take on France.
More to follow…